The Economist blog has a section, Lean Back 2.0, that gives a range of people an opportunity to voice their perspectives on things like advertising, business models and reading. Although it claims its mission is to discuss the "impact that new digital reading devices, particularly tablets, are having on both reader behaviours and media businesses", a chunk of the blog comes across as tablet boosterism, so I haven't been reading it much.
A couple of weeks ago, Rishad Tobaccowala took a somewhat contrarian view, arguing "the tablet worsens the magazine industry's headache". His two-part assessment: the tablet offers significant competition for attention, and it redefines the content that people can and do want to read.
To fight these forces, Tobaccowala recommends that magazine publishers:
- "Double down" on print as an artifact, and charge for it
- License more content
- Embrace "audience" over "circulation"
- Challenge established orthodoxies
- Partner with technology companies
- Give J-school students a clean sheet of paper and a chance to invent the future
Tobaccowala is particularly critical of legacy thinking. As he points out in a response to a comment:
"The mindset issue is that magazines have thought of digital as another distribution medium (how to port magazines to digital) rather than a way to think in completely new ways about how to leverage content to both engage and monetize."
I've never been a fan of the idea that "devices will save publishing." Chasing the new, shiny thing is fun for a while, but the distractions keep publishers from tackling the kinds of challenges and opportunities that Tobaccowala identifies.